Full disclosure: I have 1,156 friends on Facebook. Clearly, I spend some time on the infamous social network!
Currently in my 28th year of youth ministry, I have seen many technological changes. Remember the days of using the ditto machine to crank out printed sheets to advertise events?
How can adults keep up with it all? As the campus pastor at a Christian high school, one thing I do is witness some of the interesting dialogue between my students on the Facebook News Feed. A thread this past summer really cracked me up:Student #1 (male):
SO it looks like my parents aren't going to let me have Mass Effect (an Xbox video game) for another TWO months in all probability. They want to teach me PATIENCE. Whoopee.Student #2 (female):
Hahahaha!! :DStudent #3 (male):
dude...you're 16 and your parents are still having to teach you patience for something simple like a video game? c'mon...Slightly Older Friend (male):
My parents tried to limit me to "an hour Saturday, an hour Sunday" of computer time when I was growing up. It didn't stick.
(More grumbling from several voices, especially Student #1- until 1 hour later)Mom of Student #1:
okay--parent alert! Hi everyone :)Student #1:
Ummm hi mom...
I thought this was priceless! I was really proud of the mom. I didn't ask what happened at home that night, though.From Paralysis to Practices
There is plenty of fear-mongering out there regarding youth and technology (perhaps you've heard about sexting or sextortion.), so I don't need to pile on the statistics.
What I will do is give you some practical guidelines that I have shared with parents and teens. Perhaps you've heard some of these ideas before. If so, use this as a refresher to encourage you to keep these practices front and center in your daily parenting and discipleship of kids.1) Keep computers in common areas, and stay there yourself.
I had a student tell me recently that every single one of her friends has a computer in the kitchen and family room area of their homes, but that not one parent sits with their sons and daughters when they are online. The entire point of keeping computers in common areas is for parents and other family members to be able to see anything being viewed online that is unacceptable.
Nearly all the students I have talked to do their homework into the wee hours, well after their parents have gone to bed. So they aren't using laptops behind closed doors, but they might as well because they are using them without adult oversight.
While we certainly want to cultivate trust and responsibility with teens, we also need to let them feel the fences we have built around them. As Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says, "[Keep] an eye on your child's texts and online communication, whether it's via instant messages or Facebook…I'm the parent. If I have to choose between having my child upset with me or having them victimized, I'm going to chose for them to be upset with me every time." (See: "Parents, Do You Know What These Texts Mean?" CCN.com
, Aug. 26, 2010.)